STRIKING A BALANCE

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By Navjyoti Dalal

From debates on the use of chemicals in pesticides and fertilisers, to the effects of foreign flora and hybrid seeds, gardening is riddled with many a grey area. Let’s begin by exploring a few common ones

The Green Revolution was considered one of the biggest breakthroughs in agriculture in India in the 1960s. However, despite its success, one cannot ignore the criticism from many quarters about how it relied heavily on industrial pesticides. Hybrid seeds, which were once hailed as a saviour, are now not finding much favour with ecologists. There are many more examples of such grey areas of cultivation which have as many merits as demerits. Gardening too has its fair share of concepts, which have different schools of thoughts championing them. Here’s a look at them:

Organic vs Non-Organic Gardening

This is perhaps one of the most common debate-inducing matters. Whether cultivating a big piece of land, or maintaining a home garden, one often finds themselves confused about whether to go all organic, or pick a few chemicals that are safe to include. Dr Sachin Chavan, a horticulturist, who is in-charge of the Hi-Tech Floriculture and Vegetable Project at the College of Agriculture in Pune, feels that there needs to be an integration of the two routes. “An integrated approach in which organic and inorganic inputs are used appropriately for the production of ‘residuefree’ produce is ideal. Enhancement of the productivity without any pesticide residues is key for modern gardening,” he says. He explains that to achieve the residue-free result, one has to be tactical. For instance, if you’ve used a chemical pesticide, it wouldn’t forever remain in the plant. There is a waiting period that should be observed. “Also, both organic and inorganic additives (read fertilisers) release ions in the soil. The ions will be the same, only the source would be different,” he shares before adding that for a home garden, an all-organic set-up is far more attainable and sustainable.

However, not all organic material is foolproof. Neem oil, which is one of the most common organic pesticides, may be organic, but it still has a high toxicity if used in a concentrated form. Knowing proportions is imperative. For instance, if a plant thrives in acidic soil, it needs a certain pH balance without which it will not do well and eventually die, irrespective of how chemical-free its environment is.

A no-soil garden

Traditional garden lovers swear by soil and would not even attempt growing plants in any other medium. However, there are also new advances in science that make gardening easier for enthusiasts. Two decades ago, coco peat was unheard of, but today it is one of the most widely used mediums, which is even used without any soil added to it. One of the reasons can be the lack of space for gardening. With ground gardens becoming a rarity, and balcony and terrace gardens commonplace, soil too is being replaced by something lighter and airier. Dr Chavan shares that soil is also a source of soil-borne diseases and nematodes. “Plus, hi gh bulk density of soil has made it inconvenient for balcony gardening and green house production. In this regard, coco peat is a smart substitute for soil less gardening,” he says. If using coco peat as a medium, one needs to supply nutrients externally, through water soluble fertilisers. “There is another kind of medium called peat-moss which is rather expensive and not easily available. Coco peat, then emerges as a great alternative,” he says.

The seed debate

Having successfully shown results in farm production, hybrid seeds were also enthusiastically received by gardeners during the Green Revolution. “However, for gardening one doesn’t need that immense a production. You don’t have to feed a million stomachs via gardening, as against agriculture. And gardens are the best means to go the heirloom way,” says Chavan. He also adds that despite difficult to access and avail in the market, the indigenous seeds are better suited to the garden format. The National Bureau of Plant Genetic Research, Delhi, is where he suggests one can source them from.

Source: Pune Mirror

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